Lavender Line Rebirth

In the summer of 1983 Isfield station was taken into private hands for the first time when David Millham and his wife Gwen brought the station along with quarter of a mile of track from British Railways and turned it into their own private railway centre. After the news spread that a new railway was born in the area it attracted many new faces and so it grew bigger and bigger as the months went on. By 1984 a brand new replica of the waiting room had been constructed on platform 2 and ready for use. The station itself was beginning to get back on its feet and the level crossing gates were refurbished and given a fresh lick of paint. The waiting room and ticket office on platform 1 was converted into the station’s new buffet and the platform toilets were fully resorted and refurbished.

After laying down nearly quarter of mile of track Mr Millham needed a small selection of steam engines and rolling stock to carry passengers along the line and by the end of 1984 the first two locomotives arrived at Isfield station ready for public running. The first of these was a 2-10-0 War Department Loco which had been shipped over from Greece after playing its part during the Second World War. This extremely powerful heavy freight loco was built to haul heavy loads on very poor track along with a fair bit of neglect. Although it arrived at Isfield in a very rusty state the engine was in fact in very good mechanical order and within a few months David and his small party of volunteers has managed to repaint the engine in war department green lined in red. The other locomotive was an 0-6-0 Saddle tank called Ugly, this class of locomotive was similar to an austerity in both looks and performance.

By 1986 a third steam engine joined the railway; this being 0-4-0 Andrew Barclay, Annie. This diminutive little engine with its 12 inch cylinders was a regular performer at the line and was regularly seen on both passenger duties and on goods trains recreating scenes reminiscent of the heydays of steam. With the three steam engines and a good collection of wagons and carriages the railway continued to grow in both size and members of staff, by the late 1980’s Mr Millham started running wine and dine specials which proved to be very popular and continued for many months.

By 1991 Mr Millham had made the decision that it was no longer feasible to run his own railway due to the mounting bills and costs of not only the site but the steam engines. By this time the war department 2-10-0 which had now been named Dame Vera Lynn had left the railway due to the unusable size of the engine but the railway had gained an 0-6-0 austerity locomotive built in 1943 to a wartime standard. This engine later became known as Blackie and remained at Isfield for many years until 2007